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Grand Forks commission aims for economic growth that benefits everyone

Grand Forks is growing, and while Mayor Mike Brown says he’s proud of the city’s growth, he also wants to make sure no one gets left behind.

That’s why Brown introduced the Blue Ribbon Commission on Social Infrastructure during his State of the City address Wednesday.

“We want everybody to benefit,” Brown said in an interview. The commission will address the needs of new Americans, refugees, young families, people living in poverty and many others, he said.

“It’s the whole community,” he said. “That’s why we’ll have a variety of people on the board.”

Brown selected City Council member Bret Weber to lead the social infrastructure commission.

The commission will be made up of 11 representatives of the nonprofit, faith and new American communities and county, city and state governments, Weber said.

“I want to make this about sound economic development,” not the kind of economic development where just the rich people get richer, Weber said. It’s an effort to make sure Grand Forks grows in a full way that everyone can benefit from, he said.

“As prosperous as we are as a community, we’re seeing increases in different needs,” he said.

The city has already put a lot of work into building physical infrastructure amidst growth, he said, but “the city isn’t just a place for roads and pipes. It’s a place for people.”


Similar to last year’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Housing, the social infrastructure commission will gather and study data and identify the needs of the community, Weber said.

“It’ll show us what we’re doing right and what we can do better,” Brown said.

Since the commission hasn’t started gathering data yet, Weber couldn’t say what specific areas of the community would be addressed, but he said he was interested in making sure young families have place in Grand Forks.

“Cost of housing is probably going to be an inevitable part of the conversation,” he added. The social infrastructure commission will likely use the data gathered by the housing commission last year, he said.

But Weber expects the commission may find some new issues that the community hasn’t addressed yet, he said.


Pat Berger, president and CEO of the United Way in Grand Forks, said she’s excited to hear that the city is making social needs a priority.

“It should help people get a sense of the needs out there and help raise up everybody’s level of quality of life,” Berger said.

Local nonprofit groups already communicate and work well together, she said, so she’s pleased other groups will be part of the commission, forming stronger relationships.

Weber said the social infrastructure commission’s work will likely be complete sometime in 2014.

For it to be a success, Brown said he’d like to see “a smooth integration of all of our systems.”

Brown added, “It’s nice to live in a community that cares,” where people are seeking answers for the city’s needs.

Charly Haley
Charly Haley covers city government for the Grand Forks Herald. As night reporter, she also has many general assignments. Before working at the Herald, she was a reporter at the Jamestown Sun and interned at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Detroit Lakes Newspapers and the St. Cloud Times. Haley is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, and her hometown is Sartell, Minn.
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